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shalom cohen, my colleague, eric trager, and congratulating one again our gold prize winner, steve cook. [applause] thank you all very much for joining us today. [inaudible conversations] >> now on c-span2, we bring you booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books. here are some programs to look out for this weekend. at noon in light of congress discussing the so-called fiscal cliff, booktv highlights a few programs about economics. arlie hochschild. then tomorrow stephen han and sara gordon sit down with booktv to talk about their books. also on sunday at 2 p.m. eastern danny danon discussing his book, "israel: the will to prevail,"
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followed by patrick tyler, author of "fortress israel: the inside story of the military elite who run the country and why they can't make peace." watch this and more all weekend long on booktv. for a complete schedule can, visit >> strangle me -- [inaudible] >> give it to him hard! >> he's not safe on that bus. >> i've been on that bus. they are just as good as gold. >> as all of us, i think, in this country we're starting to see people coming out and talking about their experience of this phenomenon that so many of us had experienced in one way or another and had had no words for other than adolescence, other than growing up. finally people were starting to stand back and say, hold on, this isn't actually a normal part of growing up, this isn't a normal rite of passage.
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i think there was of a moment where there is a possibility for change, and director lee hirsch and i decided to start the film out of that feeling that voices were kind of bubbling up, um, coming up to the surface to say this isn't something that we can accept anymore as a normal part of our culture. >> cynthia lowen has gathered essays and personal stories in "bully." hear more tonight at 10 on "after words" on c-span2. and find more booktv online. like us on facebook. >> you're watching booktv. next, thomas ricks looks at why so many world war ii-era generals are held in high regard while history's not been so kind to generals who commanded troops during later wars. it's a little over an hour. >> well, good evening, everyone.
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welcome, and thank you for joining us. my name is richard fontaine, i'm the president of the center for new american security. it's a real pleasure to welcome you all here tonight to celebrate the publication of senior fellow tom ricks' new book "the generals: american military command from world war ii to today." speaking of books, it'd hardly be a launch event if we didn't have some for sale, and we do, so if you're interested, tom's volume will be on sale after the event, if you haven't already picked up one -- which i see some of you have -- in the ballroom lobby. tom ricks has been a member of the cns family for a while. he writes a widely-read blog called "the best defense" which won the 2010 national magazine award for best blog of the year. he's well known for his book "fiasco" and for the follow-up, "the gamble: general petraeus and the american military adventure in iraq."
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tom spent 17 years as a reporter covering the u.s. military for "the wall street journal" and another eight for "the washington post". in the course of this work, he reported on places as varied as somalia, bosnia, iraq and afghanistan, and he's been part of two teams that won the pulitzer prize. as i've gotten to know tom over these past few years, eve learned that he's that rarest of finds: a disruptive thinker whose energy and creativity combine in an interesting way. he constantly pushing us to think more nimbly and more provocatively, and that's a spirit that infuses tom's new book, "the generals." he explores generalship of good and bad. he traces the history of george marshall from world war ii, william westmoreland in vietnam to colin powell in the gulf war and to the generals who commanded in iraq from 2003 on. the generals argue that is the
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military's changed in the way it rewards good generalship and punishes bad and that the gulf has grown ever wider. tom's is a provocative argument and one that we will examine in some detail. joining tom is susan glaser, one of the nation's top national security journalists. susan's the editor-in-chief of foreign policy magazine and has done tremendous work in the national security discussion. prior to joining foreign policy, susan was a reporter for "the washington post" and for the capitol hill newspaper "roll call." she brings great experience and expertise to this conversation tonight. tom and susan, we're poised for an illuminating conversation about generalship, command and relief. tom and susan, over to you. >> first of all, thank you so much, rich, for that kind introdiscussion and a big -- introduction and a big thank you to cns.
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thank you very much. and i think you've given us a perfect starting point for the conversation today in your very general russ and, i think, right on the mark introduction of tom and his new book. because i, too, have known tom both as not only his editor and also his friend, but as a disrupted thinker who has lots of important things to say about leadership, followership, and one of the things i personally enjoyed reading about "the generals" was thinking about leadership across institutions. and also i think bringing forward these questions about accountability in american public life since world war ii which, to me, in many ways is really what the book is about as well as being a lot of great yarns about a lot of powerful individual stories both of the generals we've all heard of from general marshall to general
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westmoreland, but also those we haven't heard of and whose stories, i think, need to be recaptured. but i'd like to go ahead and start right in the middle, tom. let's talk a little bit about your most provocative thesis which is that boiled down to its essence, there's just not enough firing going on in the u.s. military since the end of world war ii. >> i would say, yes e, there is not enough firing going on. but the book is not simply a brief for firing more generals. it is a brief for accountability. if you hold people accountable for success and failure, you incentivize success in the military. and i think we've lost that. there's a real tolerance for mediocrity. as colonel paul yingling famously said, a private who loses his rifle is punished more than a general who loses his war. and the book is a cry for restoring some of that
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accountability that george marshall used in world war ii, that marshall gave generals about 90 days to a few months to either succeed, get killed or be replaced. and that's why today people like lloyd fredenball have been forgotten, and we know names like gavin and eisenhower, the younger officers who were moved up because they were successful in this very hard darwinian process that marshall implemented and we lost in korea, vietnam and iraq. >> you bring up the example, and that clearly is some of context that informs the book although it is a real work of history going back to world war ii and up to the present day. you make the point that there's more accountability lower down the food chain than for our general officers now. >> it's called different spanks for different ranks. >> well, that's exactly right. [laughter]
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that's not in the book, i don't think so. [laughter] how many people are, have been held to account for the disastrous setbacks that the u.s. military had early on in the iraq war, the failure to see things going on? none, right? >> none really. the stunning thing to me is here's a good trivia question. who is the last army division commander relieved for combat ineffectiveness? as best as i can tell, it's major general james baldwin, commander of the division in 1971. since then generals have been fired, but they get fired for basically taking down their pants at the wrong time in the wrong place with the wrong person. [laughter] it's a little bit like having tenure for a university professor. you can get fired for embarrassing the institution with moral lapses, but just being incompetent in your professioning is perfectly acceptable. >> now, before we yet on, and i want you to step back for a second and give people a real
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sense of why you wrote the book, who the heres are -- who the heroes are, who the zeros are -- this firing thing, that's what has insiders in the military establishment really up in arms. you've gotten under their skin with this critique, this idea that the solution is firing. that has, you know, prompted some howls of outrage. why do you think that would make things better? why is that more accountable? >> because if you don't, if you tolerate incompetence, you have an incompetent organization. what you want is not to fire people for the sake of firing, you want to fire people who don't succeed. you want to reward people that do succeed. what you wallet -- want ultimately, though, is adaptability. i was thinking about h.r. mcmaster because somebody had written to me and said, tom, you either have a counterinsurgency or a conventional army, you can't have both. and i thought, wait a second,
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h.r. mcmaster is one of the most conventional heros, a tank battle in the desert -- >> right. >> yet years later in iraq he's one of the few, one of the first commanders to successfully adopt counterinsurgency tactics. that shows a real flexibility and adaptability of mind. it shows the ability to think critically, to think strategically, to be educated about your profession not just trained for your job. training prepares you for the known, education prepares you for the unknown. h.r. mcmaster went into iraq prepared for the unknown. most of our commanders did not. most notably i would say lieutenant general ricardo sanchez who strikingly, basically, had iraq blow up in his face and went home 'em bittered because he wasn't promoted to four stars as if somehow i did my one year, i'm entitle today a promotion. that sent of entitlement is a new thing in the army, the sense
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that we are above questioning. i worry a bit that as a nation we try to honor and support the p troops so much that we kind of include the generals in that not understanding that one way to support the troops is to give them good leadership. they deserve better leadership. they deserve the best leadership we can give them. we are not giving it to them right now. >> isn't -- and one of the arguments is that really we have a much vaster but also more professionalized army than the post-world war i force that marshall had an urgent imperative to turn into a real fighting force to begin world war ii and that, you know, firing is not necessarily a sign of good leadership or good management of a big organization but could also reflect a failure, right, in the end of an organization to weed out the problems and let them simply fail upward. >> sure, but it's never too late to fire a failure. [laughter] >> and i think you really want to give people the best leadership you can find. this is a matter of life and
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death for troops. troops know it when they're not well led. they sense it. and in world war ii though it was, yes, it had millions of amateurs, we go from about 185,000 troops in the army including the air force before world war ii to 9.5 million by 1945. so necessarily, a hugely civilian force comes in. yet enormously adaptable. the key characteristic i would say of the u.s. army at world war ii was its ability to learn. >> with yeah. >> marshall famously said at a meeting once, yes, he said to a british officer, our troops make a lot of mistakes, but unlike yours, they don't repeat them. [laughter] >> and wasn't that the testimony of german officers after the war, is that they found that the americans were learning more quickly? >> yeah. i mean, i'm a little bit suspect of the german officers if i'd
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just been captured, i probably -- [laughter] >> yeah. >> you guys are kicking butt, you know? [laughter] >> well, one great observation i think in the section on world war ii is this incredible speed with which this is playing out which i think, you know, bears repeating because it's really dramatic. we like to think today we live in the twitter age where, you know, moving at the speed of light when it comes to our news cycle, but our military isn't moving at that fast speed. not only have we opinion in afghanistan for the past decade, but just the pace and the scale of the change that marshall was overseeing. >> it is striking that by the time we began fighting effectively in iraq we had been there longer than we fought world war ii. it was about four years before we actually had an effective force on the ground in iraq. in terms of being strategically effective, not tactically effective. i wallet to emphasize, by the way, i am not criticizing our troops today. our troops are well equipped,
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well trained, cohesive, perhaps the best soldiers we've ever had. they are just not as well led as they might be. >> one thing that's also striking i think that's an important thing to sort of surface is you do make a direct link between bad leadership and when things really go awry. you talk about some of the violent accesses in iraq, for example, or in other wars. what do you see some of the consequences of some of this bad generalship? >> i see, first of all, people just rotating in almost mindlessly. andrew referred to this as the casual arrogance of the u.s. military in the war in afghanistan. it's striking, for example, we will soon have had 11 commanders in afghanistan in 11 years. that's casual area gans. arrogance. why would you think that was any way to run a railroad? if you had an american corporation that had 11 ceos in 11 years, what would happen to it? it would fall apart.
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warren buffett said if you've been playing -- he said if you've been playing poker for half an hour and you don't know who the patsy at the table is, you're the patsy. [laughter] when you put the commander in every year and rotate through in one year, everybody does their time and goes home, we basically make our commander the patsy at the table. he doesn't know where all the bodies are buried. and by the time he figures it out, he's going home. i can't imagine running a war that way. can you imagine marshall saying to eisenhower in january '44, hey, ike, you've had 18 months over there, time for somebody else to have a turn. no, actually, marshall and eisenhower made a lot of mistakes in '42. they needed to make mistakes and learn from them. eisenhower, by the way, at one point in africa thought he might be relieved, sent a letter to his son saying, look, if i'm relieved, that's the nature of the business, don't worry about it, you know? we'll all go on and fight our wars. >> well, in fact, that's one of
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the critiques that i've seen fashioned about your prescription to the books is the question of, well, if ricks wants us to fire more generals, doesn't that mean he doesn't tolerate mistakes? but, in fact, your narrative of world war ii superintendents even our greatest leaders made many mistakes on the personal front as well as the strategic side. >> yeah. you had 155 men selected to be division commanders in the army in world war ii. this is many murder les before that -- hurdles before that. marshall cleared out of 600 senior officers before the war began, officers he considered deadwood, and that's actually the term he used to felix frankfurter when frankfurter was talking about. so of the 155 men who commanded decisions in combat, 15 were fired. 16, i'm sorry, 6 were fired. -- 16 were fired. of the 16, five were given other divisions in combat later in the war which actually leads to one of my favorite characters, terry
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allen. by owns the johns hopkins university staff ride of sicily looking at the american campaign in sicily in 1943, and the grad student talking terry tal eleve- talking about terry allen mentioned and after the battle was over and the campaign was won, omar bradley fired terry allen. my jaw dropped. i had just come out of iraq where nobody got fired for nothing, you know, where mediocrity was our goal. and instead i hear about the army firing one of our most effective division commanders in europe in our first your of war there, and that's really the they had that began the book for me, going back and studying this. bob kill brew told me, tom, you need to learn more about george marshall, so off i went. a couple years later i emerged from the archives. really came to admire the guy. i don't think he's a
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particularly likable guy. and the other hero, i think, in my book is eisenhower. i think he's actually underrated. the job of managing the allies, of dealing with the british, the french -- >> montgomery was no easy character. >> montgomery's a piece of work. [laughter] you know, at one point they're meeting -- montgomery won't come see marshall, so september 10, 1944 -- i mean, sorry, montgomery won't meet ike. so ike knews up to brussels. he can't get off the plane because he's wrenched his knee, so montgomery comes to see him. pulls out some memorandum can, well, they're sheer rubbish. eventually eisenhower says, steady there, monty, i'm your boss. it's fascinating to me how that difficult relationship with the british as they're realizing that we are replacing them not only in the combat effectiveness, but as a
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superpower, um, how eisenhower kind of lets them down'sly, manages that -- easily, manages that. doesn't fire montgomery though he's sorely tempted to do so at times. if you think i'm exaggerating eisenhower's achievement, think they had to follow seniority and put george patton in that job. [laughter] >> things might not have gone so well. >> no. i think we probably would have ended up at war with the british. [laughter] >> so after world war ii are there any heroes, or is it a long story of decline? >> no, there are real heros. the korean war brings two other personal hero os of mine. one is master ridgeway, probably marshall's leading protege. he began world war ii at marshall's morning briefer, briefing him on the state of the war. and, by the way, that was basically an operations brief that was also given to the president. ridgeway is a very interesting, central figure rising very quickly from colonel to lieu
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gent general -- lieutenant general in world war ii. but then korea turns around that war magnificently and quite quickly. but my other hero of the korean war is a guy who's almost forgotten today, which is a shame, o.p. smith. i want to dwell on a moment for o.p. smith. he's a marine general, he's reporting to almond and mcarthur. it's a fascinating problem because he believes his superior officers are incorrect in their assessment of the situation and in the orders they're giving him. he has to handle a situation in which mcarthur wants him to run his marines up to the chinese border just when he believes the chinese are pouring into korea. and believes correctly, by the way. he handles this extremely well. it's said that the most important things a general can do are all done before the battle begins, and i think that's true in o.p. smith's case. he does three things; he concentrates his troops on the
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west and south chiez of the reservoir, he lays down a series of supply depots in case he has to retreat, and he has an air strip dug so he can fly out his wounded. had he not done these things, i think we might very well have lost 15,000 marines. at the reservoir, which would have made it the greatest military disaster in american history, many times the size of custer's last stand. and probably would have resulted in one of two things; either us going nuclear in the korean war against china or from the korean peninsula and south korea today being a communist state under north korea. i want to ask if gayle shisler is in the audience tonight. gayle shisler, correct me if i'm wrong, is the granddaughter of o.p. smith. raised by o.p. smith because your father was killed in the world war ii. so we have here today the
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granddaughter -- and raised by smith -- of a genuine american hero, is i'd like -- so i'd like to give you both a round of applause. la. [applause] >> and if there's one thing i hope comings out of this book is the marine corps museum corrects the notion even in the marine corps that chesney polar was commander at the reservoir. >> i'm so glad that you raise this because really, for those of you who haven't red -- read the book yet, this is far the most recognized and still gripping story. it's really telling a powerful story. now, is it true, tom, as you've just shown for us that you have a soft spot for the marines? [laughter] he has been accused of being partial to the marines at the expense of the army. over is it just that the army produces more bad generals?
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[laughter] >> the army and the marine corps are very different. i think the marine corps still does operate more in the nautical tradition of swift relief in holding commanders accountable just as skippers of vessels are accountable for everything that happens on their ship. so, for example, the only notable relief of the invasion of iraq in 2003 was general madison's relief of a regimental commander, colonel dowdy. the reason why i got into -- and i'm glad you asked that is because i wanted somewhere in the book to dive down to the tactical level. most of the book is at is the strategic level which is how generals think about wars, the first task of the commander -- to understand the nature of the conflict many -- in which he is engaged. the whole way through senior echelons down through battalions, companies, squads, fire teams. chosen reservoir is an example,
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you have the marines on the west side, an army unit on the east side. it's an army-reinforced regiment. you have the first marine division reinforced on the west and south sides, so it's a laboratory example, comparing decisions made by generals. in this case, not all cases -- i want to say to general scales if he's here tonight, in not all cases did the marines do better than the army. in this case they did, clearly. o.p. smith makes a series of very smart decisions each though he has -- even though he has met almond and mccar think really pushing him in the wrong direction in a kind of reckless fashion. the army unit on the east side of the reservoir, people forget this, got wiped out. >> yeah. >> 90% casualty rate. the survivors only survived because they were able to stagger out on the ice of the reservoir and walk down to the marine lines four miles to the south.
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and because a little known marine colonel went out with some corpsmen and some marines over the course of several days and pulled in a lot of wounded he found wandering, staggering around mindlessly on the ice while chinese soldiers, by the way, just watched them. they could have shot them at any time. i kind of like this marine colonel because at one point he was a relief pitcher in the minor leagues. i think on the hagueerstown blue socks or something before he went back into the marines. >> so in the later years, in the stories of vietnam, iraq, afghanistan to a lesser extempt, i think that's really where this question of politics and civilian oversight versus what you can lay at the doorstep of the military really comes into play. you recount tales of generals who are much less heroic than those you just talked about in
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those later wars. where do you feel the balance lies between the accountability that should have been there but was missing for the generals in vietnam or in iraq in its early days versus the problem of political leaders setting impossible goals or murky goals and then ultimately firing, you know, only the guy at the very top because things didn't work out politically? >> yeah, they keep on -- what you have -- as soon as the military chooses the tradition of relief in korea because the pentagon says to rimmingway you're going to embarrass us, and congress is going to start asking nasty questions, so ridgeway wanted to fire fife of the six division commanders in korea. and they basically told him you can do it, but do it on the down low. >> right. pretend it's rotational. >> yeah. pretend it's rotation. and they basically say joe collins, the chief of staff, has already lied to congress about this, so just keep up the facade. we lose the tradition of relief
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partly because in these small, unpopular, messy wars it's harder to know what success looks like. yet you can be successful. it was clear to me, i think, that general petraeus was successful during the surge in extricating the united states from iraq which i think was his true mission in getting us out of the war in one form or another. but you go to an interesting point here which is the secondary theme of the book which is civil/military discourse. i want the give a shout out to two people if they're here tonight, bob goldich who suffered through reading my manuscript twice and lieutenant general jim dubik if he is here -- oh, there you are. jim dubik is the exception to everything i'm saying tonight about generals, by the way. [laughter] a couple of things about jim that strike me. now retired, he's the only general i know who upon retirement enrolled in the ph.d. program at johns hopkins in philosophy which is an interesting career move.
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but jim in reviewing my manuscript said you really need to think more on the role of civilians, and he was totally right. and in the rewrite of the book, this became a major theme. what works, what momentum work. marshall and roosevelt, to me, are the model of good civil/military relations, goodies course. they're not particularly friendly. >> right. you say marshall refused to even have dinner with roosevelt. >> yeah. didn't like having dinner with him, refused to laugh at his jokes. when fdr refers to him as george, he makes it clear that his name is general marshall. [laughter] and the first time marshall ever went to hyde park, roosevelt's home, was for his funeral, to be a pal bearer. he kept his distance. yet was selected for the job because he was candid with roosevelt. before he was army chief of staff as a brigadier, nice the oval -- he's in the oval office, and basically, roosevelt kind of blows him off, and he says, wait
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a minute, you need to hear me out here. he says, no, mr. president, you're wrong, and let me tell you why. roosevelt likes that. that's good civil/military discourse. it's not being chummy, it is exploring your assumptionings and surfacing your differences and examining them. a big mistake going into iraq was when general shinseki said we need more troops, everybody said, basically, you know, shut up. instead of saying why do you think that? as it happens, i think shinseki was actually wrong. he pissed off iraqis and created an insurgency, probably getting it twice as fast. but civil/military discourse, the quality of it, jim dubik emphasized to we, you've got to look at both sides. are they honest with each other, are they open with each other, do they really delve into differences deeply and think about them. for example, assumption going into vietnam, at some point the communists have a breaking point
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that we will reach before our breaking point. turned out it was wrong. 1991, we give saddam hussein a good thumping, he'll fall from power. actually it turns out saddam hussein thought he won the '91 war, we now know after the cabinet tapes. the said, i don't know -- he said i don't know why, but the americans have given me a cease fire. so the ending of the war is botched partly because they don't have an examination at the civil/military level, and instead is of having a triumph, we open up a 20-year war with iraq that takes forever to resolve. to me, the real low point is lyndon johnson though. lyndon johnson at one point had the joint chiefs into his office, and they basically try to lay down the law and say, mr. president, we don't like the way you're prosecuting the war. he curses them out in the most vulgar terms which i won't use because c-span will get mad -- [laughter] and the chiefs leave.
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the cno says i've never been talked to like that in my life. well, fella, at that point you put your stars on the table and say, mr. president, you clearly have lost your confidence in me. i am out of here. that's what george marshall would have said had fdr spoken like that to him. we know this because when douglas mcarthur pulled that stunt, roosevelt said, douglas, you must not talk to the president like that. so these guys had an understanding back then that we seem to have lost in our senior leaders later on, that their job is to speak truth to power. >> yeah. >> even when it's uncomfortable, especially when it's uncomfortable. dissent, expressed internally, is the highest form of loyalty. >> do you -- and that's where i want to come right back to the iraq war and the current iraq war and ask you why you think it is, i mean, to the extent there
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has been blame apportioned, it has actually rested mostly with bush, i would say, and with those around him who chose to pursue the war. the military has not by and large been seen by the public to be accountable for what by any accounts was, you know, an awfully long-term, expensive and not super successful effort to subdue a country that was far smaller than the u.s., it had nothing like the resources that we brought to bear. why has the military not been held accountable and, you know, are there places that explain that? >> i think the first reason is the errors of the bush administration were so huge that it kind of on -- obscures the eras of the military behind them. and we also want to support the troops, so we confuse supporting the troops with not criticizing the generals. i mean, we invade iraq recklessly, on false premises, we waste billions of dollars fighting the war the wrong way for many, many years and
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strategically, i think we wind up knocking down the bulwark of power that is frustrating iran, and we turn over iraq to iran, basically. so strategically, not such a good idea east. either. so the bush administration makes so many mistakes that i think it kind of lays down a smoke screen through which it's hard to see the military. i be i think -- but i think it is time to ask the military some hard questions; what have you guys learned, how have you guys adapted? the romans prided themselves on adopting the tactics of their enemies. and it made me stop and think, what enemy tactics have we adopted? now, you don't want to adopt, you know, random ieds -- >> suicide bombings. >> yeah. but it made me wonder, are there things we should have learned that we haven't? as john -- [inaudible] has famously written about the army needs to be a learning
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organization. what is it learning, how is it learning? these are the questions we should be asking. why aren't we asking them? i think the big part of the fault is with, as i said, people not wanting to diss the military. second, we have a congress that no longer knows how to talk to the military. during the vietnam war, two-thirds of the congress were military. today two-thirds of them are not. so we kind of have a divide between the 1% who fight the wars and the 99% who really, i think, generally ignore them these days, especially when they're no longer our wars. snag struck me recently is that -- something that struck me recently is that iraq even today more violent than afghanistan, but nobody knows that because we don't care. >> not our problem anymore, as they say, right? >> yeah. >> well, i want to make sure that we get to questions from this very eager and attentive audience. just quickly, though, i want to
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have one of my own which is you pose early on in the book the question of whether the army went from a model of leadership under marshall to one of management and even micromanagement in the '50s and beyond. and i was really struck by that because i think in many ways i think that's the question that gets at the heart of the whole book and the question of how these studies are applicable to other large organizations whether it's business or other parts of the u.s. goth. what do you think about that? doesn't a leader have to be a good manager? >> this is actually one of the surprises to me of the book is that the harvard bids review excerpted it. >> yeah. no, and i can understand why it did. >> i think it's probably the first history week in a long while, thanks to christian, who suggested it to me, why don't you offer this up to them. yes, leaders have to be managers, but they have to be leaders foremost, and one way you lead is to give subordinates
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responsibility to let them execute. the problem is if you don't have an organization that optimizes for competence, you have to micromanage, especially if you can't remove failures. so you see this a hot in vietnam -- a lot in vietnam. commanders are on six month tours, a lot actually quicker. i remember reading one infantry company going through five commanders in seven months late in the vietnam war. and if you p don't trust your subordinates, you hover over them, sometimes literally in helicopters. you have an organization that veers towards mediocrity and towards stalemate, by the way. everybody does a one-year tour and goes home saying, well, i made progress on my tour. it's a little different if you're there for three, five or seven years or you're there for the duration. it's a lot harder to claim steady progress seven years into it. >> yeah. the road to success leads
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through berlin, right? i think you point out early in the book, then you have a pretty good incentive to get there as quickly -- >> and the whole organization has that incentive to lean forward, to take some prudent risk. but if everybody's going him -- home in a year, keep your nose clean. i don't understand rotation. eleven commanders in 11 years in afghanistan? i mean, that's no way to run fig anything. but you don't just want to get rid of the top guy. i keep on thinking about the baseball analogy. if all you can do is fire the top guy, westmoreland in vietnam, casey in iraq, mcchrystal in afghanistan which is the only tool that seems to be available to civilian leaders, it's like firing the manager of your baseball team every time you start losing. >> but keeping the same team. >> sometimes you do want to fire the manager, especially bobby valentine. [laughter] but more often all you need is a relief pitcher.
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>> [inaudible] >> yes, especially dan -- [inaudible] [laughter] >> he's not a baseball manager, is he? >> no, he's not a manager of anything. >> no, exactly. >> he's an owner. >> you don't get to fire the owner. [laughter] >> the first time c-span's had a discussion of the redskins in a while. [laughter] >> it might be the last, i'm afraid. okay. well, listen, i know there's a lot of good questions out there. we have people with microphones and, please, identify yourself and who you're with and make it a question too. sir. football, baseball, generals. >> no, i'm here to talk about warfare. i'm elliott, i'm retired, and i've read several of your books before this one, and i admire your work. i saw a film about a month ago called "follow me" about
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netanyahu. perhaps you've seen it as well? >> i have not, no. >> and i talked to the film maker, and it led me to think about mottos like this, follow me being the motto of the infantry soldier which i endured during the vietnam war when i was in the reserves. and leading from the front, which i think i read about in world war ii. it leads me to the following observation, that rommel met with troops at the front line to find out the candor from candid p p troops what was happening and to gain intelligence. is that something you've encountered in these other leaders? in that's a good question about commanders being out there. i think it's clearly one of the measures of a good commander at any echelon, are they getting out and about. i think general sanchez did not generally. i remember i think it was both
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petraeus and odierno who were then acquisition -- division commanders told me they almost never saw sanchez, and i think he only went up to mow sulk once or twice. basically, they went down to commanders' meetings in baghdad which, fortunately, i was given the notes for so i could go through them. e-mail's a great thing. [laughter] a good contrast would be petraeus who spent a lot of time doing what he called battlefield circulations in baghdad, just getting out and about. odierno did so as well when he was with petraeus in baghdad. they also brought in different points of view. it was really striking to me in that phase of the surge of '07, the different voices you saw around american commanders. you know, emma skye, a fashion fistic british-arab specialist,
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anti-american, anti-military is odierno's political adviser. you know, and if you asked general odierno why, he said because she makes me think differently, she asks the right question. the other people you saw were also asking iraqis questions. david -- [inaudible] was in baghdad, and he asked the iraqis a question about what to do in sadr city, a civil engineer, a former army officer and a religious leader, and they started talking intensely, and he said, i'm sorry if i gave an offense, they said, oh, no, you're just the first american who's asked us what to do instead of telling us. this was four or five years into the war. so getting out and about is a sign -- >> [inaudible] >> i am not an expert on the german military, i would not venture to it, and if i did say anything, bob would correct me, so i'm not going to go there.
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>> all right, let's get to another question. right here. >> hi. hi, tom. >> hello. >> um, i wanted to personally thank you for your support and the advocacy in dealing with -- >> [inaudible] >> oh, sorry, christy kaufman, director of a nonprofit dedicated to bridging the military divide, but i'm also an 11-year army wife. you talk a lot, we've talked a lot about accountability. what happens on the home front with accountability? obviously, we're struggling now with some of the mental health issues and thed ises both among the service members, and i've talked a lot among the wives who are killing themselves. i know that budget really an issue, and generals weren't expect today deal with that kind of stuff the way they are now, but with i will tell you from my point of view as a stakeholder both living it and then being an
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advocate, i have never heard of a commander at any level being relieved for being a block or, you know, to the a soldier struggling with mental health. you know, we talk a good game about stigma and not allowing that, and i think leadership is sending the right message. but in terms of policies and actual accountability, there doesn't seem to be any. >> it's a good point. the other day i was speaking at politics & prose, our great local bookstore, and retiered brigadier -- retired brigadier general got up and spoke about that. he said, look, it was pretty clear that the characteristic weapon of the opposition was the ied, the roadside bomb. we knew as medical experts that these had consequences for mental health, for soldiers' morale. he said, but it took us years to start addressing it. he just didn't understand why it took so long for the army to say
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this is the characteristic weapon of this war, what effect does it have on soldiers and how do we help them? he said it just took too long. >> well, you have that powerful story in the book about patton and his famous explosion at a soldier who was suffering from war fatigue. >> another incident, by the way, of speaking truth to power. when patton slapped two soldiers with, basically, ptsd, the medical commander sat down and wrote a report and filed it. i'm not sure that would happen so much in today's army. certainly it would happen someplaces, some good units, but you look at this case going down at fort bragg right now with this brigadier general, sinclair? people clearly knew something rotten was going on with that guy, and it went on for a long time, and nobody did anything about it. >> okay. i want to get right up here in the front, and then we'll go to the back.
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>> hi, tom. bob goldish. i don't have a job. [laughter] >> but you are writing a history of conscription. >> yes, i am. one of the things you mentioned in the book and you and i batted around a lot was that the commanders both at the general officer level in korea and in vietnam weren't losers in many cases in world war ii. a lot of them had bang-up records as battalion or even regimental commanders. and you mentioned that one of the big characteristics we brought into vietnam was arrogance. but it seems to me there's something more there. have you given any more thought to why people who did so well in world world war ii in many cases flunked out so much in succeeding wars? i haven't figured out why, i'd be interested in your impressions. >> i am still thinking about it, i have some impressions which is these guys genuinely were the
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world murderers of the world. they beat the nazis in the japanese empire. the generals of vietnam were the same people we lionized as the greatest generation. and i'm amazed that americans haven't figured this out. [laughter] saving private ryan, you know, and vietnam, these are the same officers 20 years later. well, number one, there was an arrogance. we'd beaten the world. once you've beaten the japs and the nazis, you know, how could a bunch of asian peasants be a problem? even though we got hurted twice down the korean peninsula. the second thing is they don't value education much. william westmoreland is representative of his generation. he used to boast that i think the only army schools he'd ever been to were, i think, airborne school and cooks and bakers
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school. also went to harvard business school on an executive program which is not a great recommendation for harvard business psychological. [laughter] >> that's not in their recruiting literature. [laughter] >> the people who educated west more lan. [laughter] >> as did robert mcnamara, by the way. there's a real track record for vietnam and harvard business school. so they don't value education. and general petraeus pointed out that education prepares you to think critically, and these guys really were not able to figure out the situation that well in vietnam. abrams, by contrast, very similar history, very similar, i mean, talk about greatest generation, this is the guy who drives, i think, the lead tank in the relief of the 101st airborne at the battle of the bulge yet is able to think critically partly, i think, because he had time to watch
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west moreland. not as big a different as the army likes to think, not necessarily a better war but certainly a somewhat different war under creighton abrams when he succeeds westmoreland. though i do think the army coming out of vietnam also reinforces this mistake. it rebuilds itself magnificently at the tactical level. it doesn't do anything about generalship. and so tommy franks is not an aberration, he's not an anomaly, he's exactly what the army was trying to produce in the 1970s and '80s. which it turns out was a jumped-up battalion commander who doesn't understand generalship, who thinks taking the enemy capital is the end of the war, and he spikes the ball on the 20-yard line and goes home. back to football. >> we did start with baseball, right? i mean, it wasn't -- >> i don't know, i'm not even a football fan.
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i'm a baseball fan. [laughter] >> okay. here. >> yeah. peter adam, i'm a defense contractor and a vet. i served with the 101st. it was a little after the battle of baston. you touched on something earlier that i'd like you to sort of expound on, and that is you talked about the difference between management and leadership, and you've mentioned harvard business school a couple different times. and i heard commanders when i served on active duty in the army talk about management by objective and sort of the business school, you know, approach to things. do you think that that's something that has undermines the kind of generalship and leadership that you're talking about, the sort of management as opposed to being a leader, and is that a deeper problem in society as a whole, do you think? >> i think it probably is.
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sort of a lack of accountability i do think it's easier the fix than we think though. i don't think the raw materials of our generals is bad. there are a lot of smart, hard working, determined people, but they're working in an incentive structure that pushes them towards the middle rather than purposes them up. -- pushes them up. and the army doesn't like outliers. i remember being told when general casey was asked why h.l. mcmaster had not been promoted to two-star, though he clearly had been very successful in his command tours, casey said because he's a smart a is dass. give me a break. i don't want care. patton was probably technically insane. [laughter] who cares if a guy is a smart ass? it actually probably means, you
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know, smart ass is probably army term, army jargon for disruptive thinker. the term richard fontaine began with. we could use a few more disruptive thinkers. you get them by rewarding success, punishing failure. it's a pretty simple formula. you have a sense for accountability not for the officer corps, but for the army as a whole, which marshall had, putting the enlisted soldier before the officers and defense of accountability to the nation as a whole. and i think the army has lost a bit of that. with this general officers, especially operating more like a guild or a union than like stewards of the profession. >> you've been very patient in the back there. >> hi. larry, hudson advisory group. i'm very entered to maybe take
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a -- very interested to maintaining a step back, go back to world war ii and the initiation of the focus on accountability. i did some studying, my uncle had been in the 90s infantry in utah beach, and i was very impressed to read about the history of the division. to my surprise, general jay mcill i have who was the commander was e are leafed in about a week -- can was relieved in about a week, let alone 90 days. and i never found out why. obviously, he budget cutting it. but i guess the question i had, with these fellas, what was their downside? you said about 10% of them were division commanders who were relieved. now, what happened? i mean, were they kicked down to colonel, sent bang to the united states d sent back to the united states? were they sort of sent to the effect of a teachers' rubber
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room, or was in a couple cases that they actually were reassigned to another division? i was wondering if you can give a sense what these men were up against so that that kind of culture, the, you know, the downside permeated to the future generations such that they were more concerned about avoiding failure rather than, you know, promoting, achieving success. >> sure. this actually leads to one of my -- a great trivia question. who is general james cheney, anybody know? eisenhower's predecessor as the american commander in europe. relieved by marshall and moved to command an air force boot camp in wichita falls. [laughter] the 90th division is a fascinating instance. it's where my book begins, it's the prologue, is the 90th
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division. they go through three division commanders that summer, and finally they get a good division commander. this kind of goes to the management versus leadership question. when they get a good commander, the division turns around. now, they go through hell first. their replacement rate for infantrymen that summer was 100%. one day william depue, then a young officer -- i think he was a captain at that point -- is standing with his regimental commander, and they see 800 men walking toward them. and the regimental commander says which battalion is that, and depue says that's not a battalion, that's today's replacements. they chewed up that division through poor leadership. so much so that omar bradley considered breaking up the division and simply using it as replacement fodder for other divisions. it gets turned around, and
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actually by the end of the war the 90th division is a good-performing division. not because they got new troops or new training, but because they got new leadership. and i think this is seen, i mean, around the army. you do well, you move up quickly. van fleet dose from being a regimental commander i believe at d-day to, what, i believe a three-star general in about -- or a corps commander at least in about 18 months. that's not up usual in the army in world war ii. on the other hand, a lot of guys, yeah, get a week in the 90th division was one of the shortest ones, but a couple of weeks. the other problem is anybody who was around mark clark would get fired so mark clark wouldn't get blamed, and this is actually one of the weaknesses of eisenhower. mark clark was known to be very close to eisenhower, and so the british clearly didn't like him as a leader, did not recommend
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his relief. and army officers knew he was not very good. but he just grinds away and chews up his troops, and he is somebody in this i said stance who -- in this instance who should have been relieved and with not. whereas terry allen should not have been relieved. interestingly, he bounces back to the united states. i've gone through, if you go o up to carlyle, you can read his letters to his wife written in pencil onlined school paper. he gets fired, and he doesn't know what's happened. he's been fired after the first infantry division after winning in sicily in all '33, and he writes to his wife and says i went to patton and asked what's going on, patton says, oh, i think they're going to give you corps command. eisenhower say, oh, you're tired. bradley says he momentum like
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him. he's not really a corporate guy. he gets back to the united states, he gives him a division and sends him back to europe. marshall disagreed with bradley, and that's one of the more interesting fights. these papers, some of them were only found last year. and the george marshall institute let me look at some of these papers. a relative of marshall's found them in an attic last year and gave them to them. >> yes. >> tom davis, retired u.s. team, friend of tom ricks. i haven't read the book yet, tom, probably like most people. i'd like to just throw one premise out and see what you think about it. i was talking to my father-in-law at one point in time, and he mentioned the equipment that he had as he went across utah beach back in that period of time, and i kind of
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tallied it up, and he had about $200 worth of equipment, a steel pot, a rifle, some lode-bearing equipment. your standard soldier today is going to walk out with about $25,000 worth of equipment. technology is really something, and it kind of strikes me perhaps a little bit, i just wonder what your thoughts are on it, as this glide path has gone along where your argument is, you know, the generals have become less inspirational, less strategic thinking and so forth. the technology glide path has been going in the opposite direction. so i think by requirement they have to spend more and more and for time trying to understand b -- more and more and more time trying to understand the technology, what it is, how to use it, and their focus maybe has gone there. and in some cases i think they've done well with it. i remember as a battalion commander in desert storm i had this box stuck in my vehicle which was basically a tactical cell phone, and i was horrified
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because that really meant that anybody up to norm schwarzkopf who had my phone number could call me, and i expected to get a lot of supervision. really didn't happen, but my sense is it has slowly been happening in the age of e-mail. so do you think the technological revolution has had some impact in how officers have to think, how they're trained, how they command, how they interact and it's basically in some way contributed to the situation you've described? ..
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they are showing us. so we tend to look for technological solutions, they should not. weekend to look at the upside of technology for americans, we hope will commonplace technology, there is a real pattern of consequences that we don't recognize. and after the ana, bangle, we talking about a predator feed -- anaconda battle and a predator feet, one person said to me know what a predator fee is? crack for generals. it goes to a point which is when we are not thinking strategically, when you are a general who is training the battalion commander to think the be all end all doing well at the
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national training center, then if you don't know how to be a general you simply are battalion commander with stars on your shoulder. you go to the last level in which you operated successfully. technology enables this. generals sitting watching the predators feed saying watch out for the machine gun behind the tanks, they already shot the guy on the machine gun but he can't see that. vietnam. the echelons in the sky hovering above company commanders. that is technology, helicopters enabling them and enabling commanders to regress back. if you don't know what to do strategically you could do something tactically. frequently you shouldn't do something tactically even if you have a better idea. you got to let this aboard net figure it out, learn on his own.
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if you jump in every time with both feet, all you do is micromanage and not let people learn and that is what they need to do. >> that is a good point especially when you think it is not the general but the commander-in-chief can sit as he did in the famous picture of the osama bin laden raid and watch the event played out live. not just crack for generals and more. >> predator feet, not just crack for generals and more. >> yes, ma'am. >> a recent graduate of johns hopkins and last year's international staff manager and undersides this year, we're happy we inspired you to write the book. >> the book began the moment i've thought of this book. >> great to hear. for the record, burgeoning
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coming out this year, at johns hopkins. >> elliott cohen is the intellectual godfather of this book. his book supreme command, elliott is a professor at johns hopkins, his book supreme command is the best thing ever written on how presidents should talk to the military. >> i will tell him you said that. >> he knows it. [laughter] >> my question is two pronged. i have not finished your book yet. i haven't you already -- i hope you haven't already answered this but with the well-publicized drawdown in afghanistan, what gives you hope when it comes to future generalship and what makes you despair? >> the second part is easier to answer. lot of things make me despair. you know what gives me hope? it will sound perverse. the defense budget is going to be cut.
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when it is cut as the british famously said, we have no money anymore, somehow we must think. we have a military that has had a fire hose of money turned on at the last ten years and intelligence community as well. they were given money and told to figure out how to spend it. we have a generation of officers who genevan know what the word austerity looks like. i get piles of e-mails from people about three cuts here and six cuts there. there will be 10% or 20% cuts coming down the road here. is not a bad thing. and other book i have been reading a lot and really enjoying is paul kennedy's rise and fall of british naval mastery which is a wonderful book. he makes the point that at the beginning of world war ii the royal navy was the world's biggest navy. also was irrelevant. it was powerful but they didn't understand aircraft carriers,
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they underestimated submarines and they thought battleships were still central to maritime operation. the royal navy does nothing worth remembering in world war ii. is a total drain on the british. when mitt romney was talking about the size of the navy during one of the debate, i thought you want to read paul kennedy year. just because we have a big powerful navy doesn't mean it is the right navy. what you want of a relevant force? april and force down the road is going to look very different than it does today. but i think the place to begin with pretty severe budget cuts that make people stop and think. >> we have had so many great questions and i know we can go all night but we only have time for one more and tom will talk to a lot of you individually as well. you, sir.
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>> perfect segue. i'm a navy captain of the naval academy. also co-founder of a forum to study warfare and wondering if you could comment or everything what you said about the maritime tradition where we have more accountability because the reality of talking to a naval officer, we haven't fired a torpedo in danger since 1945 the servicing agents are under half dozen, aviators were not fighting it out. as you recall from history, the first world war, lincoln said jellicoe was the only man who could have lost the war in an afternoon so were the generals that months or years to grind this out and learn, naval officers don't get that chance so going back to the and lady's question, do we have confidence the naval officer corps from your studies, is different from the generals and we perhaps beyond accountability running ships and ground with combat accountability that we are
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getting it right? >> a good question and a short answers i don't know. you know much more about this subject than i do. you have written well on it. accountability among navy officers but you are right, we have not only the 1% war, but it has been such a bifurcated war in which the air force and navy have flayed really minor roles over the last ten years and the marines and the army has been overcommitted. i saw the other day that one of the recent casualties in afghanistan, i find that appalling. the idea readjust putting people in the grinder again and again as the rest of the country waltzes a long. i don't know what the answers but the fundamental answer i would leave to people is reconnect the people to the military, people who follow the
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military and think about it and understand it which leads me unfortunately to the belief we should have some kind of draft. i teach -- my liberal sister how to talk about the military when her son joined the marines. you got skin in the game, i got skin in the game. i am not picking up warfare as a game but having skin in the game does change your focus. the way i saw my sister changed her thinking, the attention she paid to afghanistan all the sudden, she is sending me questions about my blogger. you said this but this guy roads as last month. what is going on here? she is paying real close attention and as a nation, i think it is immoral to wage war in a democracy and not pay attention. i worry moral hazard we are being morally reckless in the way we are carrying out war these days and that worries me a lot. one final thing i want to say,
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thank you for coming. i want to setting call some my family, my wife is sitting quietly in the corner, she did not walk out as she threatened, she said she has heard all of this last couple years and a final thought, i am assigning books, local politics and prose, if you have a question, fine. don't ask me in line when i'm signing books. let me get people who want their books signed and talk to other people after that. let's get people through the line quickly. thank you very much. [applause] >> tell us what you think.
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[[inaudible conversations] >> etan thomas is the author of "fatherhood," forward but tony dungee of the indianapolis colts. what is the impetus for this book? how did it get started? >> i wanted to create something beneficial and inspirational to young people, especially those who grew up in a single-parent household like i did. i wanted to be able to play nba for 11 years like a lot of people, i wanted people to wait in on making the right choices, the right decisions in life, telling their story about how they were able to make it in life and make the right decisions and the inspirational soak it ended up like andre agassi and tony hawks and ice cube and kareem abdul-jabbar, we
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all talk fatherhood. young people listen to athletes and entertainers, they listen. that is why i wanted to put together, give something inspirational. >> what is the format. did you get a saves while these athletes? >> i got essays. each chapter is broken into a topic. one topic might be showing men having fun and loving their kids, and different people are together. another chapter might be getting past the anger of not having a father as much as you want him to become a different men talking about that but having people young people recognize talking about these topics really resonates with young people. >> you talk about your own family in here and the fact that your daughters, their dress code is going to have to go through you. >> definitely. we talk about that a lot in this book. my daughters are young now.
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i have three kids. when they get older they are going to have to go through me when come with addresses and outfits. it is just learning a process from each other. is not something where you shake your finger at somebody like you are wrong for doing this. some people have had experiences and some have said once but everybody is learning from each other. >> why the focus on athletes. >> athletes are just part of it. i am an athlete and i play in the nba so i talk to paul and deron davis and everybody brings something different to the table. it is just really learning. everyone has the story. >> what is your association with the obama administration's fault of the initiative? >> i was appointed part of a father of initiative, going out and doing a lot of different things for the past year and we will keep doing them for the next four years. president obama made it a key
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point to stress the issue of responsibility, the right choices and things like that and we will continue doing it. >> what was the process like for you writing this book? >> it was a blessing. everyone loves talking about their kids and sometimes it is therapeutic, something i have not talked about that much. writing and really be therapeutic and learning. i am learning from a different guy here just as much as i want the reader to learn for everybody else. >> choose your friends here? >> she is from the charter school and in ninth grade, class of 2020. they say when they're going to graduate from college. she is a special young girl telling me how everything is set up. he is really sharp. >> can you tell us quickly what the see school is? >> the first college prep boarding school for underprivileged

Book TV
CSPAN December 15, 2012 8:00am-9:15am EST

Thomas Ricks Education. (2012) 'The Generals American Military Command from World War II to Today.'

TOPIC FREQUENCY Marshall 22, Vietnam 17, Us 13, Afghanistan 11, Iraq 11, Navy 9, U.s. 7, Korea 6, United States 5, Patton 5, Terry Allen 4, George Marshall 4, Roosevelt 4, Baghdad 4, Sicily 3, Europe 3, Casey 3, Tom Ricks 3, Israel 2, Iran 2
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